Monday, March 19

I Want to Write Fiction. So, Um, Where Do I Start?

By Janice Hardy. @Janice_Hardy

It's probably no surprise to anyone reading this blog that a lot of people want to write. Some know exactly where to start and even have whole book ideas in their heads, but others are a bit lost as to where to begin. And with all the information out there, it can be pretty overwhelming (and confusing) for someone who wants to write, but hasn't taken those first steps on their writing journey yet. Where's a newcomer to go?

That first step is easy. Just start writing.

Try getting into the habit of writing, and don't worry if it's any good or not. You want to get used to using dialog and description, writing out how characters act and move. See if you can craft a scene or even a chapter you like, then try going back and seeing how you can improve that scene or chapter. Use it as your training chapter (or short story if you prefer to start there). Trying to write a huge novel can be overwhelming, but a small piece is more manageable and you can see progress.

Once you get comfortable with writing in general, work on the fundamentals until you understand how they work together. You might even have one file you're working on. For example, "training chapter dialog" and spend time on just the dialog in that chapter until you're comfortable with it, then move on to another technique like point of view or action scenes. Then you can try a whole story and see how that goes.

Stuck for ideas? You might start with...

1. Writing down your story ideas. Write down the story as if telling it to a friend. Don't worry about proper formatting or anything at this point, just get in the habit of writing down a story. This will help you get a feel for how stories unfold and how you might start piecing together elements of that story. It'll also start developing those brainstorming muscles.

2. Put a scene on paper. Pick a piece from that summary, or imagine a random scene and write it out. It doesn't have to go anywhere, just try to get the feel for the flow of the words and how one sentence leads to another.

3. Try introducing a character. Write a scene where this character is first seen and describe who they are and the type of person they are.

4. Try writing how your story opens. What's the first thing that happens? Who is the first character seen?

5. Try writing out something that happened in your day in book format. If some part of your life was a scene from a book, how would it play out?

6. Try writing out a scene from one of your favorite books or movies. Picture it in your head and put it down on paper. You might even play with changing how it unfolds, or mixing characters and storylines from different source material. Lots of folks use fanfic to get them started.

Fiction is different from writing emails or even blog posts, and eventually you'll want to study craft and learn technique. You'll have to develop those writing skills and start thinking about stories like a writer. But until you get those literary legs under you, there's nothing wrong with writing just to get used to writing.

Here are a few helpful posts once you're ready to move on to writing a story.
Grammar and You: What You Need to Know to Write A list of things to brush up on/learn during the beginning stages

So You Want to be a Writer? Different levels and a general breakdown of things each level focuses on.

Story Rulez: Things Every Story Needs to Do A general breakdown of the components every good story needs.

If you're new to writing, what questions do you have? Seasoned writers, what advice would you give someone just starting out in writing?


  1. Practise every day, even if only for a few minutes. Think of writing like a muscle that needs both exercise and training!

  2. Definitely butt in the chair and write, write, write. Even if it's in diary form, just get something down. The mechanics can be learned but the desire to write must be trained from the beginning to happen when you're in that chair and be kept fresh every day.

  3. Well, it would be great if you first prepare some major outlines for the fictions that you want to write about and then follow those outlines in writing more and more about those and then at last review what's the most important part and then summarize the outlines.

    1. That works for some people, but not others. Pansters (people who write "by the seat of the pants" and don't plan) are stymied by outlines and it actually steals their creativity. There are all sorts of ways to write. If outlining works for you, use it. If not, look for other ways that do.

  4. As a newbie at this, I'm finding out that all the advise at this post is priceless. I grew up with a family that tells stories based on zany or other "colorized" experiences. But writing an entire novel (or even a story), based on something that came out of my head, is an entirely different animal to learn how to ride. I love this post.

    1. Glad it was helpful! It's a lot to absorb, but take it step by step and learn it at your own pace :)